Book review: Tall treehouses, a gothic monster and an adorable dog

Tall treehouses, a gothic monster and an adorable dog
Tall treehouses, a gothic monster and an adorable dog
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Children will enjoy putting some spring sparkle into their reading when they get their hands on a super new selection of imaginative books.

Aim high with a picture book celebration of extraordinary treehouses, meet a child-eating monster who finally finds a friend, go wild with a charismatic canine and take flight with an enchanting little butterfly.

Age 4 plus:

Everything You Need for a Treehouse

Carter Higgins and Emily Hughes

Youngsters will be branching out when they get their hands on this beautiful picture book which takes the concept of treehouses to dizzy new heights.

If you thought a treehouse was just a fairly simple structure perched in a tree at the bottom of your garden, then think again. Creative author Carter Higgins and talented illustrator Emily Hughes have big ideas when it comes to outdoor play.

This inspirational and magical book offers children an entertaining sequence of treehouses that celebrate the timeless wonder of these eternally popular ‘dens’ and explore the endless opportunities for adventure, discovery and imaginative play.

From a ramshackle structure on the lowest branches and a precariously balanced makeshift boat to a library in the treetops and a snug home in the night sky, these are treehouses for wonder, for snacks, for whispers, for sharing secrets and for thrilling echoes.

This poignant, lyrical and exquisitely illustrated book has a treehouse for everyone. Featuring Hughes’ beautiful images and Higgins’ lyrical text with its addictive, flowing cadence, this gorgeous book gives life and meaning to all the elements that make a treehouse… from time, timber and rafters to ropes of twisted twine that invite visitors to sprawl out on a limb and slide back down again.

Appealing to both children and parents, and ideal for schools and nurseries, or as a warm and whimsical bedtime wind-down story, Everything You Need for a Treehouse is destined to be a favourite for all the family.

(Chronicle Books, hardback, £12.99)

Age 10 plus:

Dr Christian’s Guide to Growing Up Online (Hashtag: Awkward)

Dr Christian Jessen

As if growing up wasn’t hard enough… the internet has made it even more troublesome!

To counteract all the worries that the digital world has created for teens, Dr Christian Jessen –doctor, TV presenter and columnist – has logged on and stepped up to bring us this savvy, social-media style tour through such wide-ranging topics as health, puberty, anxiety, gender, sexuality, stress, grief and any difficult questions in between.

TV favourite Dr Christian tackles all those tricky questions about growing up in the modern technological world where it seems everybody is watching you ALL the time.

Answering all those awkward questions head-on, the good doctor helps youngsters find out how to stay safe and to be aware of the risks that come from cyberbullying, binge-watching TV, group chats and leaving digital footprints.

Dr Christian’s Guide to Growing Up Online contains REAL answers to REAL questions and is the ultimate online survival guide.

(Scholastic, paperback, £8.99)

Age 9 plus:

Creatures of the Order

Jules Howard and Fay Evans

Illustrated by Kelsey Oseid

What do an elephant, a seal and a leopard have in common?

If that sounds like a very silly question, then open the pages of this fascinating book and discover the many ways in which creatures of the world are related to each other through what is known as the taxonomic order.

Creatures of the Order is an illustrated extravaganza which collects together members of the same taxonomic order – groups of animals with similar features – in an informative and accessible way through easy-to-read facts about each animal.

Children will love learning about the ways in which animals are related to each other, and Kelsey Oseid’s beautifully detailed illustrations of the animal kingdom bring to vivid life all the wonderful facts that have been brought together by Jules Howard, a zoologist, author and international ambassador for science.

Planet Earth is a swirling, dizzying mass of interacting organisms but if you look closely beyond its surface, there is an order. Every animal living today is a member of these taxonomic orders, a special type of extended family sharing similar physical traits.

Within each order, there is a common theme even though it might include many different animals.

Creatures of the Order explores some of the Earth’s most dazzling taxonomic orders and celebrates the way that life organises itself and the mechanisms it uses.

There are creatures we call mammals that give birth, and have backbones and belly buttons, and there are creatures with feathers and wings that we call birds that lay eggs in shells, and there are creatures we call amphibians that swim and rear tadpoles, and creatures called arachnids that have eight legs and scuttle and crawl.

So head off into the wild and discover what a raccoon and a river otter have in common, a slow loris and a gorilla, and a peacock and a turkey.

This is taxonomy as you have never before viewed it!

(Weldon Owen, hardback, £14.99)

Age 7 plus:

Dennis and the Chamber of Mischief

As told by the writer and illustrator Nigel Auchterlounie

Summer is on the way and it’s time to make mischief!

Nigel Auchterlounie is on his best Beano behaviour for an epic interactive adventure starring those shining comic stars – Dennis, Gnasher, Minnie and Walter – as they try to save Beanotown from a fate worse than death… boredom!

Auchterlounie, a writer and comic book artist who pens the scripts for the weekly Dennis and Gnasher strip in the Beano, certainly goes to town in this madcap adventure story which is brimming with ghostly Vikings, skateboarding grandmas, an enormous Gnashersaurus Rex and a series of interactive puzzles for young readers to complete.

In fact Dennis and the Chamber of Mischief contains so much fun and entertainment that it has been selected as one of the ‘Must-Have Reads’ for the Summer Reading challenge as chosen by children and librarians across the country as part of this year’s Mischief Makers theme, an annual event produced by the Reading Agency and delivered by libraries to encourage children to read more during the school summer holidays.

For the first time in Dennis’ life Beanotown has become boring!

All his pranks are backfiring and he seems to have lost his awesomeness.

Even his faithful hound Gnasher seems fed up with him these days.

If only there was some way to bring the fun back to Beanotown...

When Dennis hears about the legendary Golden Pea-shooter of Everlasting Fun, it sounds like the only thing that can solve his problems and return his hometown to its former glory.

With the help of his cousin Minnie and Gnasher, Dennis must go on a quest, discovering the mysterious Chamber of Mischief in his bid to find the Golden Pea-shooter.

But a series of tricky challenges (and Dennis’s nemesis Walter) stand in his way. Can YOU help Dennis solve the fiendish mystery and save Beanotown from eternal boringness?

Fun and laughter all the way for your own mischief-makers!

(Studio Press, paperback, £6.99)

Age 7 plus:

The Yark

Bertrand Santini and Laurent Gapaillard

All monsters like eating children… or do they?

Children will have monstrous, laugh-out-loud fun when they meet the Yark, star of very funny, whimsical and entertainingly subversive story from the pen of French scriptwriter and author Bertrand Santini.

Illustrated throughout in exciting Victorian Gothic style by graphic designer Laurent Gapaillard, this chapter book is a creative, energetic and perfectly pitched book for middle grade readers.

The Yark loves children… but with the love of a gourmet unfortunately! This hairy monster dreams of child buffets… ham of boy, orphan gratin, school child puree, breaded babies, girl rillettes.

But he has a problem… his delicate stomach can only tolerate the flesh of nice children. Liars give him heartburn and savages spoil his teeth. In fact, there are not nearly enough good, edible children around to keep him from starvation.

Then the Yark finds sweet, delicious, kind Madeleine… will he gobble her up, or will she survive long enough to change his life and become his friend?

Gapaillard’s richly Gothic and detailed pen-and-ink illustrations bring to life the scary Yark but without losing the wonderful whimsy and dark comedy of Santini’s clever and creative story.

(Gecko Press, paperback, £6.99)

Age 6 plus:

McTavish Goes Wild

Meg Rosoff

It’s a dog’s life at the Peachey household… or, to be more precise, it’s family life with a clever dog as head of the pack!

Welcome back to the madcap world of the hilarious Peacheys and their wonderful canny canine McTavish, the rescue dog whose mission now is to rescue his chaotic but lovable adopted family.

Young readers first met author Meg Rosoff’s charismatic cast of characters in Good Dog McTavish, the laugh-out-loud tale of an eccentric family whose dramas and dilemmas instantly won hearts and minds.

Now it’s the longed-for summer holidays and the Peacheys are in crisis… again! Youngest child Betty Peachey is trying to persuade the family to go to the Faraway Campsite of Ma Peachey’s idyllic dreams.

But most of the Peacheys are still resisting. Pa Peachey is convinced that terrible dangers lurk in the ‘wild,’ Ollie only cares about whether there will be a disco, and Ava has her nose deep in philosophy books.

Fortunately their extraordinarily clever and resourceful dog McTavish, who is always one step ahead of the Peacheys, quietly works out a way to get the family enjoying their holiday as a pack...

Grace Easton’s gloriously witty and evocative illustrations capture all the quirky originality and offbeat humour of this warm-hearted and captivating story which is brimming with Rosoff’s stylish prose and astute eye for the weird wonders of dog-human dynamics, and the recognisable oddities of family life.

McTavish Goes Wild is part of Barrington Stoke’s Conkers collection which features books that celebrate the very special alchemy that weaves between words and pictures.

(Barrington Stoke, paperback, £6.99)

Age 5 plus:

The Old Man

Sarah V and Claude K. Dubois

Homelessness takes centre stage in a moving picture book by two Belgian authors and illustrators Sarah V and Claude K. Dubois.

The Old Man, a simple but emotional story about a hungry, lonely, homeless man and a little girl whose shy innocence helps him to overcome a communication barrier, conveys important messages for every generation about the plight of those who are forced to live on the streets.

Day breaks over the town. Wake up everybody, it’s time to go to school and time for the old man to get up from his shelter in a shop doorway. The night was icy and he is hungry.

He has no job, no family, no home… he’s a nobody who once was a postman but now can’t even remember his name. But his day changes when he is noticed by a child…

Drawn in soft, watercolour pencil in sepia shades, The Old Man tells a touching tale of homelessness and the way children see what others refuse to see.

The subtle, gentle but truthful unfolding of the old man’s day will appeal to a child’s sense of justice and an adult’s sense of compassion.

Behind the heartbreak of homelessness there is the shining light of honesty and hopefulness, and the generosity which, children learn, can make such a difference to those in need.

(Gecko Press, hardback, £10.99)

Age 3 plus:

The Holidays

Blexbolex

Here’s a story that will leave you speechless!

French comic artist and illustrator Blexbolex (nom-de-plume of Bernard Granger) delivers a stunning, wordless picture book as his artistic skills take flight for a story of summer madcap madness.

The Holidays, which evokes the scent of summer and the complications of friendship, follows the success of Seasons which received international acclaim. With exquisite production and vintage yet experimental illustration, the book brings us a visual feast of long summer days and will delight all ages as they follow the pictures to reveal the story of a little girl and her new, unlikely friend.

The summer holidays were almost done. I had the whole garden at my grandfather’s stately home, the fields and the sun all to myself. Until Grandad came home with an elephant carrying a bag of golf clubs and then there was just chaos!

Each beautifully textured and detailed picture cleverly reflects the little girl’s changing moods, her flights of imagination and her colourful dreams, allowing children to mentally climb on board with the adventure and work out the mysteries hidden in the story.

The perfect picture book for young thinkers!

(Gecko Press, hardback, £16.99)

Age 2 plus:

Little Mole is a Whirlwind

Anna Llenas

When Little Mole wakes up, he bounds, he bounces and he bellows! Will he sit down long enough to get through his school work?

Most children are a bundle of energy, but some have more than others and this enchanting picture book helps youngsters to understand that being hyperactive doesn’t always produce ‘negative’ results.

Anna Llenas, a talented author, illustrator and paper engineer, sets her own busy mind to this decidedly positive and uplifting story about a little mole who gets a helping hand to keep his mind – and his energy – on track.

Little Mole can’t stand still. He messes about, he gets distracted, he loses things and he breaks things... in fact, he never stops from the moment he wakes up!

People say that he is rude, impatient, restless, useless, naughty, tiring and hyperactive.

His parents are worried, his teacher is desperate and with his end-of-term school project coming up, it looks like Little Mole is going to need some help.

So who better than Serena, the forest bunny who offers ‘creative learning for wonderful children’?

And can she keep busy, buzzing Little Mole on track?

Llenas’ distinctive and visually exciting collage-effect illustrations provide a simple, fun but highly effective and accessible exploration of what it means to have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

With its important messages about tolerance, understanding and getting the right help, this is both an enchanting story and a valuable teaching tool.

(Templar Books, paperback, £6.99)

Age one plus:

Look, a Butterfly!

Yasunari Murakami

Shapes, colours and words bring the natural world to joyous life in this clever and appealing board book from award-winning Japanese author and illustrator Yasunari Murakami.

Featuring a white butterfly flitting and fluttering through the pages of the book, this is a simple but visually enchanting, light-as-a-feather story to share with the very youngest children and comes from Gecko Press, an independent publisher of ‘curiously good’ children’s books based in Wellington, New Zealand.

Look, a white butterfly! Watch it flit and flutter through the blue sky. The butterfly comes to rest on a flower, and pop, the flower opens. Pop, pop, pop, all the flowers open… they are red, blue, yellow, pink and orange.

Flutter, flit through the sky, the butterfly lands on a kitten and… meow, it wants to play!

Murakami’s eye-catching illustrations, painted in striking contrasts, and the use of repetition as the butterfly journeys across the pages make this ideal for little ones to follow and enjoy as the story is read aloud.

(Gecko Press, board book, £6.99)